<p>Alabama Shakes at SXSW</p>

Alabama Shakes at SXSW

Credit: AP Photo

SXSW Superlatives: Best in show, from Alabama Shakes to Youth Lagoon

Escort, Cloud Nothings, M. Ward, The Men, Nas, Slaughterhouse and... the best food truck

More that 2,000 artists performed at the South By Southwest music conference this year. Sadly, I only saw a few dozen, and in bits. (However, more and more I'm led to believe that the 20-minute set is the way to go.) 

Below, I assign random and unscientific superlatives to some of the bands I saw, including shout-outs to Youth Lagoon, U.S. Royalty, Matthew Dear and Escort.
 
Where are Bruce Springsteen, Lil Wayne, 50 Cent and Eminem, Fiona Apple, Mumford & Sons and the other biggest acts? Check out "The 20 Things You Missed at SXSW 2012."
 
Most improved: Sharon Van Etten. I enjoyed this songwriter’s set last week, but what a difference electric makes. Now her arrangements are fleshier, her live shows more transcendent, and her voice as a singer and songwriter is better heard. She’s a bigger deal now and she knows it, in all the right ways.
 
Band that seemingly played the most shows the most days: Garden & Villa. Even if you wanted to avoid them – I didn’t – you couldn’t have missed them.
 
Most buzzed-about live band: Cloud Nothings. Elemental, punk, sheer and aware.
 
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<p>Lil Wayne at SXSW</p>

Lil Wayne at SXSW

Credit: AP Photo

20 things you missed at SXSW: Springsteen, Eminem, Kanye, Mumford & Sons

Biggest highlights from the fest: Bill Murray, naked guy, Fiona Apple, Weezy, doo-rag brawls

For those of us who survived, another South By Southwest Music Conference has come and gone, with a new slate of happenings for next year's programmers to topple. Check out 2012's biggest happenings below, from the Boss to Weezy.

+ Bruce Springsteen had some fine guests on the second big date of his "Wrecking Ball" tour. After an afternoon of delivering the keynote address, he was able to finally rock out and see some friends -- like Arcade Fire, Alejandro Escovedo, Joe Ely, Tom Morello, Jimmy Cliff, the Low Anthem and the lead singer of the Animals.

+ Rick Ross -- speaking of Bawse -- was the surprise guest at Fader Fort on Saturday night to perform more than a dozen tracks.

+ Alejandro Escovedo had a visit from Springsteen earlier in the week, and then played host to a number of other musical cameos: R.E.M.'s Peter Buck and Mike Mills, Jessie Malin, Jon Langford and Lenny Kaye all showed. Johnny Depp… maybe did?

+ 50 Cent was joined by several special guests, including Eminem, Kidd Kidd, Precious Paris and Governor, during his performance of "Get Rich or Die Tryin'" from front to back.

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<p>Marcus Mumford and Alex Ebert at eh &quot;Big Easy Express&quot; encore performance</p>

Marcus Mumford and Alex Ebert at eh "Big Easy Express" encore performance

Credit: AP Photo

Mumford & Sons perform three new songs at SXSW outdoor gig

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros need to sharpen up, plus: 'Big Easy Express'

AUSTIN -- Mumford & Sons, Edward Sharpe and members of Old Crow Medicine Show had themselves a Railroad Revival reunion during SXSW, and like many family reunions, they took the opportunity to introduce new additions. The roots-based groups convened on the lawn of the LBJ Library, where their road doc "Big Easy Express" filmed in advance of short sets from the former two full bands, a presentation by MySpace.

Mumfords performed three new songs from their forthcoming sophomore set. "Lovers Eyes" had a little of the "quiet rage" that its lyrics suggested, frontman Marcus Mumford lamenting "Love was kind for a time… we're too young / our heads too strong / to bear the weight of these lover's eyes." It, like a handful of songs from "Sigh No More," gives way to the stomps and the sixths, all four singers busting out into harmony. "Lover of the Light" featured Marcus behind the drums for an overall soft-rocker with a big build, and "Ghosts That We Knew" falls in line with some religious-tinged imagery in the British band's songs, about hard hearts, soft lovers, darkness and light:. "You saw my pain washed out in the rain… saw blood run from my veins."

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<p>50 Cent and Eminem at Austin Music Hall</p>

50 Cent and Eminem at Austin Music Hall

Watch: Eminem joins 50 Cent on SXSW 'Get Rich' gig

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Fif does debut album in full, with help from Governor, Kidd Kidd, Precious Paris

AUSTIN -- With the intervention of Fuse TV and this Texas capitol's noise code, 50 Cent's performance of "Get Rich Or Die Tryin'" was an exercise in efficiency -- even with the preeminence of special guest Eminem.

The Queens-bred rapper/actor/businessman made a major return to his craft on Friday night, performing his debut album in full for about 4,000 fans at the Shady 2.0 SXSW Showcase at Austin Music Hall. Additionally, the cable music network fired up the engines around 11 p.m. for a live broadcast, which almost certainly helped keep festivities on track for an approximate midnight finale. Thus, Fif and his friends settled on a bullsh*t-free format, banging out the hit-after-hit that commanded that 2003 album.

50 Cent bounded on stage in a Yankees ballcap and a camouflage bullet-proof-vest -- natch -- proceeding a minute of Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York." The tracklist unfurled in its original order, which meant an early arrival of Slim Shady, on third track "Patiently Waiting." Sporting a gray hoodie up over his head and embracing the warm weather with a pair of cargo shorts, Em lurch onto the stage to the sound of shrill excitement. He later returned for "Don't Push Me" (sans Lloyd Banks) and the short-lived encore "Crack a Bottle," which earned him and Fif a Grammy in 2009.

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<p>Jack White</p>

Jack White

SXSW Music Day 3, Friday: Jack White, 50 Cent, Big K.R.I.T., Lucero

Here's your easy schedule: Dwellers, El-P, Lucero, The Mynabirds, The Men and more

Pop some aspirin and call that girl that gave you her number (time's running out!): SXSW Music programming heads into its second day, Thursday, March 15.

Below I've outlined some more artists to watch, Some shows will overlap, some are a haul, but... you paid extra for the SXSW Teleport, didn't you? Check out shows from

Thank you again to Unofficial SXSW, for having a nearly-perfect accuracy and navigable scheduling interface.

Day shows sometimes require badges or RSVP -- check the links where applicable. Badges for most of the night shows.

1 p.m.: Fat Tony at (Formerly) TOPS (Mess with Texas)
Southern rapper from Houston keeps it weird

1:30 p.m.: The Men at Barbarella (MFG/Guns in the Sun)
They ruined my hearing earlier this week

2 p.m.: Reptar at Stage on Sixth (Paste/Sennheiser)
Vagrants fizz bang buzz punk boom

2:15: Davinci at Beauty Ballroom (Iheartcomix)
Smooth psych-rap all over the map

2:30: Strand of Oaks at Home Slice Pizza
Slow-burning folk blow-out

2:54: 2:54 at Fader Fort (you read that time AND name right)
Fat Possum's newest signee

3 p.m.: Revival Tour (Chuck Ragan, Dan Andriano, Cory Branan, Nathaniel Rateliff, Audre Mae, Tim Barry) at Ballroom G in Convention Center
All these songwriters are better than you

4 p.m.: J Roddy Walston and the Business at Jo's Coffee at the San Jose
Rock 'n' Roll and whiskey and blood and sex

4:40: Tiger Waves at Dogwood (Sweet Tea Pumpkin Pie)
Fine, here's your damn Austin band. Shoegaze, jangle, deep.

5 p.m. Andy Rourke at the IFC House
Dude's from the Smiths. You never played in the Smiths, DID YOU?

5:30: Southerly at Side Bar (Mostly Harmless)
Rightly playing a showcase called Mostly Harmless. Only some dark-hearted harm.

5:30 Big K.R.I.T. at Stubb's (SPIN)
Not so good at the set times, but this is about the hour you'll get drunk and have the good kind of headache

6:15: Bad Weather California at Side Bar
Definitely tell you something that they signed to Akron/Family's new label

7 p.m. Dwellers at Headhunter's Patio
Heavy, dark, metal-lovin'

7 p.m.: Doors for the Shady 2.0 at Austin Music Hall
If you're there for 50 Cent, just start parkin' now.

9:30: The Mynabirds at Lamberts
Saddle Creek's melody

10 p.m.: Grupo Fantasma at Copa
Latin gone haywire but still sounds like a party

10:25: Carter Tanton at Lamberts
Made the soundtrack to your life and you didn't even know it

10:30: El-P at 1100 Warehouse
Hip-hop vet bowing new tunes and you can stay after for…

10:35 Kurt Braunohler at Esther Follies
Dammit is this man funny.

11 p.m.: Spank Rock at 1100 Warehouse
Urban dance that will just make you feel naughty

11:30: Lucero at Bar 69
Drinking music with a country soul

11:45 p.m. Jack White at The Stage on Sixth
Solo and loving it

12 a.m. midnight: Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds
Blue-eyed soul with a songbird of a singer

12:40: The Pierces at Stubb's
Want some sugar in your bourbon?

1 a.m.: Cloud Nothings at ND
Have been getting big buzz all week for their stellar live show

1 a.m.: Whiskey Shivers at Maggie Mae's
String band on speed

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<p>Bruce Springsteen with Alejandro Escovedo and Joe Ely</p>

Bruce Springsteen with Alejandro Escovedo and Joe Ely

Credit: AP Photo

Arcade Fire, Jimmy Cliff, Tom Morello join Bruce Springsteen onstage at SXSW

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The Boss' keynote address, stage-diving, populism and... rap?

AUSTIN -- For a man with so many famous friends, it's a wonder that Bruce Springsteen hasn't taken advantage of the talent saturation at the South By Southwest Music Conference before. The Boss not only delivered the festival's keynote address Thursday day, but performed for just shy of two-and-a-half hours with his E Street Band at night, along with a few pals from his collection. Arcade Fire, Alejandro Escovedo, Jimmy Cliff, Tom Morello, Joe Ely, Eric Burdon and more all took the stage at ACL Live, most notably and abundantly on the Boss' frequent cover and closer "This Land Is Your Land."

This Austin stop was only his second on the newly launched "Wrecking Ball" tour, but alone was a companion piece to Springsteen's keynote speech from earlier in the day. At the convention center, the songwriter articulated his own artistic journey as he unfurled a general genealogy of American popular music, in delectable poetry, in bits of song and -- at times -- sexually charged metaphor. At 62, he still expressed some teenaged glee and wonderment of SXSW's abundance and the dizzying multitude of subgenres for every palate. He advised, "Rumble, young bands, rumble... stay hungry. Stay alive. When you walk on stage tonight to bring the noise, treat it like it's all we have. And then remember, it's only rock n roll."

And he spoke of how just about every one of his songs, including those on "Wrecking Ball," were really just revamped versions of The Animals' "We Gotta Get Out of This Place."

And wouldn't you know it, The Animals' Eric Burdon showed up, to perform just that.

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<p>Tenacious D</p>

Tenacious D

SXSW Music Day 2, Thursday: Bruce Springsteen, Tenacious D, Kendrick Lamar

Check out music recs, from Grimes to the Punch Brothers to Dev to A.Dd+

Take a shower, you already smell bad: SXSW Music programming heads into its second day, Thursday, March 15.

Below I've outlined some more artists to watch, Some shows will overlap, some are a haul, but... you paid extra for the SXSW Teleport, didn't you? Check out shows from Bruce Springsteen, Tenacious D, Kendrick Lamar, Grimes, the Punch Brothers, Dev, Alberta Cross, Yellow Ostrich and more.

Thank you again to Unofficial SXSW, for having a nearly-perfect accuracy and navigable scheduling interface.

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<p>Fiona Apple at Stubb's during SXSW</p>

Fiona Apple at Stubb's during SXSW

Credit: AP Photo

Watch: Fiona Apple performs three new songs at first SXSW performance

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Review: The singer-songwriter's first large-scale bow in six years was hard-fought, triumphant

AUSTIN -- Fiona Apple made a return to a large-scale stage for the first time in six years last night (March 14), for an audience eager for an early answer: Will the singer-songwriter be a "best" or "worst" of 2012? For attendees at the South By Southwest Music Conference, there is rarely anything in between, as hype forms hyperbole and fans are converted to fanatics.

The NPR showcase at Stubb's was Apple's opportunity to bow new material from her forthcoming full-length "The Idler Wheel," which has a tentative ETA in June. It proceeds her last album "Extraordinary Machine," out in 2005, evidence of just how much credence the Los Angeles-based gives to traditional album release schedules. Her set list boasted three new songs along with a mix from her three previous efforts, including tracks from her debut "Tidal," an album that still seers with lust, sexual abuse, self-abuse and coming-of-age. Apple, now 34, was ever-emotional on stage, consistently embracing all the instability and jitters of her late teens and early 20s, with endearing snarls and that patented, quivering vibrato.

As is custom, Stubb's had embarrassing sound problems. Apple continued screwing her in-ear monitor back onto her head though she and her four-piece backing band showed no unprofessional attitude, let alone revealed any error in-set. During instrumental jams, the artist would bury her head in her arm on top of the full length piano, or close her eyes and smooth her skirt. Her slender arms would slash Xs in front of her, or she's flail her high ponytail as she restively put her hands on her hips.

You've got to hand it to someone who makes their home in uncomfortable places. For all the volatility that comes with a "comeback," she, well, makes the most of it.

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<p>Santigold performs at Fader Fort today</p>

Santigold performs at Fader Fort today

Credit: Katie Hasty

SXSW Music Day 1, Wednesday: Tennis, Reggie Watts, Future of the Left

Recommended, even if you're not there: Jimmy Cliff, Mux Mool, Bear Hands, Zola Jesus...

Take your antacid and grab a water bottle: SXSW Music programming officially kicks off today, Wednesday, March 14.

Below I've outlined some more artists to watch, Some shows will overlap, some are a haul, but... you paid extra for the SXSW Teleport, didn't you? Check out shows form Tennis, Fiona Apple, Santigold, Reggie Watts, Machine Gun Kelly, Future of the Left, Bear Hands, Jimmy Cliff and more...

Thank you again to Unofficial SXSW, for having a nearly-perfect accuracy and navigable scheduling interface.

Day shows sometimes require badges or RSVP -- check the links where applicable.

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<p>Bruce Springsteen</p>

Bruce Springsteen

Credit: Danny Clinch

2012 SXSW headliners: Bruce Springsteen, Jay-Z, Fiona Apple, Jack White

Tenacious D, Nas, 50 Cent, Skrillex and more: When do they play?

The earlier conceptions of the South By Southwest Music Conference had more of a level playing field -- the emphasis was more on connecting breaking bands to industry, and industry to fans. Obviously, that idea has shifted SXSW getting bigger and bigger every year, catering not to just music wayfarers to audiences seeking many of the same trappings of any major music festival.

Hence the headliners -- or "headliners" -- that crop up every year, often directly before the conference takes place.

This year is no exception, with some enormous names gracing stages around Austin, Texas, and even a few more to-be-announced. Bruce Springsteen is keynote speaker, plus he's confirmed that he and his E Street band will be bopping around. Jay-Z is throwing a large-scale concert, but for SXSW Interactive Conference-goers. Jack White will be performing one of his first major public shows as a solo artist, Fiona Apple will be bowing new material and Tenacious D will be re-introducing themselves after a brief hiatus.

Keep checking in to SXSW's site and HitFix throughout the festival: there will undoubtedly be many big, last-minute additions and secret shows galore.

Check out a "headliner" rundown below.

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